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There are at least nine Chinese words for “family.” And none of them are “football.”
Yet the Logger football team, under Head Coach Jeff Thomas, is perhaps more a family than anything else, right down to eating meals together—whether on campus during training camp or kicking around Beijing.
In May, 25 members of the team embarked on a nine-day cultural and educational tour of China, led by Coach Thomas, offensive coordinators Taylor Chapatte and Rob Clements ’05, M.A.T.’07, and athletic trainer Craig Bennett. The trip was organized by Global Football, which has led footballbased trips to 28 countries for American high school and university students since 1996.
“I was immediately on board and knew this would be an experience of a lifetime,” says quarterback Tanner Diebold ’18. “This trip was the perfect hybrid between a short study-abroad experience and an athletic adventure. Each day was a new journey, and we all set out each morning with an open mind, and embraced the culture.”
The team members visited Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City, the Great Wall and Bird’s Nest Stadium. Bolstered by crash courses in Mandarin and Chinese history, they watched a kung fu show, took a lesson in tai chi, and experienced a traditional Chinese tea ceremony. They rode a bullet train to Shanghai, visited the Yuyuan Garden, and spent an evening on a yacht cruising the Huangpu River. They bargained with local vendors, tasted regional delicacies, and rode rickshaws through densely populated streets.
And they did it all together. “The football team is so close because of the endless hours we spend together,” says quarterback Nik Bernhardt ’19. “Logger fans get to experience four or five games a year, but we work almost 10 months of the year with each other.”
Senior free safety Max Washam ’18 agrees. “When we first arrive for camp in August, we have team activities every night that help build a foundation for our team to connect with one another. We eat every meal together, and spend so much time together that we develop a strong team camaraderie.”
That team spirit is essential on the field, which is where this group is most excited to be—even half a world away from Baker Stadium. Apart from the cultural tour, the Loggers were in China to play. They led two youth football clinics and then challenged the reigning American Football League of China champions, the Shanghai Titans. The Loggers won 84–6, racking up more than 300 rushing yards, eight sacks, and nine interceptions.
Coach Thomas says the team prides itself on representing Puget Sound “always and in all ways.” He says, “I have always liked that phrase, and it has stuck with me. We represent the school well in a variety of ways, whether in the classroom, in the community, or on the field (in all ways). Further, we will do it to a deep, authentic level (always).” It’s a mentality he expects his players to embrace. And they do.
“I think a large reason why we’re so tight-knit is that we’ve all bought into something much bigger than each of our individual desires or aspirations,” Tanner says. “We feel as though we understand one another and where we are coming from when we slip the pads on.”